Becoming Jane (2007)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Romantic Drama, Biopic [feature]  |   Release Date - Aug 3, 2007 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Ireland   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The title Becoming Jane should be taken fairly literally. Viewers with an academic interest in Jane Austen's craft, expecting a Georgian-era Shakespeare in Love, are bound to find Julian Jarrold's film lacking. But those eager to witness the molding of an uncompromising feminist, who refused to marry for financial comfort at a time when loving your husband was considered irrelevant at best, are sure to understand Austen's principled pain by film's end. Becoming Jane starts out a bit tediously, going through the familiar motions of a costume drama in which the lead happens to be one of literature's great talents. Screenwriters Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams aren't interested in winking allusions to the future plot points of Pride and Prejudice; instead, they give us a standard "courtship" between Austen (Anne Hathaway) and Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), a commoner lawyer dependent on a capricious uncle, in which initial comic friction morphs into passionate love. But as the film leaves behind its frivolous beginnings, it really engages the dilemma faced by the young Austen, whose convictions have consequences beyond her own well-being. Her whole family depends on an advantageous match elevating them from poverty, since the literary aspirations of a woman appeared to have no possibility of accomplishing that, and in fact provoked derisive laughter from those who heard the plan. Austen's tragedy was that she would in fact develop the skills needed to prosper in this way, but not soon enough to facilitate the marriage she truly wanted. Hathaway is more than passable, but not particularly memorable, as Jane; the same goes for McAvoy as the rakish lawyer-pugilist, who gives Jane a taste of the life experience needed to become a good writer. Becoming Jane is both handsome and thoughtful, but not enough of either to constitute a major achievement.